Camps on Campus

Summer Programs Offer a Sneak Peek of College

Summer Programs Offer a Sneak Peek of College

When summer break rolls around, many kids are perfectly content to leave school in the rearview mirror. But it’s actually the perfect time to start looking ahead to college. Many campuses in the Bay Area and beyond offer summer programs that can give younger students a glimpse of what college is like in an immersive yet low-pressure way.

My daughter spent two weeks last summer, following her junior year of high school, in an acting program at a college to which she was interested in applying. She not only got a preview of that campus but an introduction to what college life will be like anywhere – living in dorms, eating in dining halls and getting a taste of independence without parental oversight. (As a bonus, the college waived its application fee for summer participants and offered a small scholarship for those who choose to attend.)

Options for summer 2024

There are lots of pre-college opportunities for high schoolers, from subject-specific intensives to sports camps with college coaches to competitive state programs focusing on STEM and the arts. 

But there are also plenty of options for younger students to check out the region’s campuses, whether through recreational, athletic or academic camps put on by the colleges themselves or through programs that operate on local campuses.

Here are some options for summer 2024:

Elementary School and Up

DeAnza College Academy – DeAnza offers summer enrichment programs online and in person for students in grades 5-12 at its Cupertino campus as well as two local middle schools. There are courses in art, math, programming, science, writing and more. Its Euphrat Museum of Art also offers art camps for ages 4-9.

iDTech – iDTech has one-week day camps for ages 7-17 at San Francisco State and Santa Clara universities and both day and overnight camps at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. At Stanford, there is also a two-week overnight camp for ages 13-18. There are courses in coding, robotics, artificial intelligence, video production, 3-D printing, game design and development, and more.

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth – This program offers three-week day and residential summer programs for gifted youth in grades 2-12. Locally, there is a residential program at UC Santa Cruz for grades 5 and up with courses in astronomy, philosophy, logic, engineering, writing and more.

St. Mary’s College of California – The college hosts a wide range of camps on its Moraga campus for kids in grades 1-12 including sport-specific athletic camps, all-sports camps and Creative Camps from claymation to creative writing to STEAM Carnival, as well as a Summer Academy for High School Students to take a college course.

Santa Clara University – The Bronco Kids All Sports Camp for kids ages 6-12 has been operating for nearly 60 years. The weeklong day camps include a variety of sports and recreational activities. There is also a counselor in training program for ages 13-17.

Stanford University – Stanford’s Classic Camp Cardinal is a summer sports activities day camp for ages 5-12 which focuses on fundamentals, basics, teamwork and fun, with a choice in the afternoon of playing sports, doing arts and crafts, swimming or rock climbing. Its Specialty Camp includes themed STEM activities and LEGO building.

Many of Stanford’s athletics teams also offer sport-specific camps with their coaches and athletes in which campers as young as age 5 can work on skills and older ones can polish and showcase their talents before collegiate coaches. There are day and overnight options depending on the sports and campers’ ages.

In addition, there are residential summer academic institutes for high schoolers in advanced math and the humanities, plus additional online options.

UC Berkeley – UC Berkeley Youth Recreation offers recreational day camps and specialty camps for kids ages 4-17. There are sports from gymnastics to skateboarding and activities from media production to e-sports. Off-campus Adventures Youth Camps including rock climbing, kayaking, sailing and stand-up paddleboarding. In addition, more than 15 Cal sports teams offer camps in which younger players through teens work with college coaches and athletes. There is also an academic pre-college summer program for high school students.

Middle School and Up

Great Books Summer Program ­– This summer program, in which middle and high school students engage with distinguished faculty in shared inquiry of timeless questions and classic works of literature, takes place at seven universities throughout the world, including one-week sessions at Stanford.

Summer Springboard – Summer Springboard offers pre-college summer programs for middle and highschoolers at 15 campuses throughout the world, including day and residential programs at UC Berkeley. Options for high school students range from architecture to neuroscience to “the internet of things,” while middle schoolers can study business, computer science, medicine or psychology.

High School

California State Summer School for the Arts – Known as CSSSA, it’s a rigorous four-week, pre-professional training program for high school students in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation and film held each summer at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

COSMOS – The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science is a competitive, four-week residential summer program for high school students with interest and achievement in STEM subjects to study and work with researchers and faculty, covering topics that extend beyond high school curricula. It is offered at UC Santa Cruz – where this year’s subjects include molecular biology, photonics, machine learning and number theory – as well as at UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

University of the Pacific – Its Pacific Summer High School Institute is a two-week residential program for high schoolers at its Stockton campus, offering more than 50 courses in the arts, health and science, engineering and technology, business and society, and athletics. Among the courses are Design and Synthesis of Anti-Cancer Drugs, Be a Trial Lawyer and Innovating with Purpose.


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